I think there's a bit of a reoccurring theme going with my one-shots here...
Disclaimer: I can't say that 'The Host' is mine. If it was then I'd be the happiest fan-girl alive.
A Million Pieces
The watch on my wrist says its 19:08. Streaks of clouds the colour of coral pink and lavender stain the darkening sky as the last few remnants of sunlight glaze the enclosing concrete landscape in a warm orange hue. The air is crisp and clear, nipping at the exposed skin of my hands and face. A cool breeze breathes down the back of my neck, causing the rest of my body to flesh out in goose-bumps. Normally, this biting frostiness wouldn't faze me in the slightest but after spending many years in the blistering hot, arid air of the South; I can't help but shiver in these chilling temperatures.
Safely concealed within the darkness of a neglected little alleyway, I can see that several cars have been lined up along the curb, their worn appearances suggesting that they haven't been used in years. The vast majority of the surrounding buildings are decrepit and unstable; the only exception being a block of newly renovated apartments just around the corner. The low droning of distant traffic buzzes consistently in my ears, reminding me that certain parts of Chicago are still thriving with life despite this downtown neighbourhood being all but abandoned.
I glance up at the hundreds of windows gazing down at us from above, scanning for any faces that might be peering through, and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end as tremors race up my spine. Even hidden under the cover of shadows, there is something unnerving about being among civilisation once again. There is hardly anywhere to hide from curious eyes, nor is there much guarantee of finding shelter should we desperately need it. All it would take is one stinkin' parasite to merely glance out onto the street before an army of Seekers come swarming in on us like a pack of coyotes when they see easy meat. I survey the many windows once more, just to be thorough, and don't risk pulling away from my observation until I'm completely satisfied that no one is watching. A flicker of movement off to my right draws my attention to the small figure standing beside me.
Jamie waits impatiently, his shoulders twitching as he shudders frenziedly. If it weren't for his eyes, bright and excited in the fading daylight, he would be fully obscured within the duskiness of the alley. I feel the corners of my mouth tug upwards into a smile.
After what has felt like years of waiting, we're finally going to be reunited with his sister, Melanie, again. And Jamie's not the only person who's eager to see her either. Anticipation stirs within me as my thoughts drift off to the blissful moment of holding Mel safe in my arms again, of seeing her angelic smile and glistening eyes, of experiencing the fire that burns so fiercely between us.
It's been six days since she left us, hiding in a cramped wooden cabin on the outskirts of Chicago, to go in search of her cousin Sharon. Six painstakingly long days in which I've watched over Jamie whilst tormenting myself with the various possible scenarios of her raid, the worst of which being that her body returns along with a band of Seekers instead of her long-lost red-headed cousin.
From the moment that Melanie had brought up the idea of coming to Chicago—the same night after she had seen Sharon appear on the TV—I had been dead-set against the notion of leaving the security of our cabin to go in search for someone who we didn't even know was still human. In fact, I spent many nights afterwards reciting a possible list of consequences that could happen during this raid but once Mel has her heart set on something, it's practically impossible to dissuade her. It was the first time in over two years that we were both so vehemently opposed to each other and after several heated discussions regarding the matter I finally gave in. We spent weeks travelling here, planning our route, minimising the danger as much as we possibly could and now that we're finally here, I'm kind of glad that it's nearly over.
Melanie's plan is straightforward yet incredibly risky. As Sharon is less likely to trust a total stranger and a kid who barely even knows her, Mel thought it would be best to go alone seeing as there may be more of chance of convincing her cousin to tag along with us. And although I'm still not entirely happy about this decision, I can't say that she doesn't have a point. Meanwhile Jamie and I were to patiently wait for her return back in our temporary hideout, only leaving in case of an emergency.
We decided that if Melanie hasn't returned to the city limits after 5 days, Jamie and I were to venture into Chicago ourselves towards our agreed rendezvous point, the great, towering block of derelict apartments that stand before us this very moment. Mel said that she would meet us in the 1st room of the 3rd side corridor off the main hallway on the 5th floor and that if she wasn't there to look out for some sort of message telling us of her whereabouts, otherwise we are to assume the worst. That those filthy body snatchers were somehow fast enough to catch her.
I shudder. The very idea of losing Mel to some parasitic centipede horrifies me. Anything is better than having one of those worms stuck in your head and as a cruel as it sounds, I'd rather she'd die than have her mind erased. At least then, she'd die human and still be the girl I love as opposed to being alive without her fiery spirit and sharp-tongue.
My gaze flickers back to Jamie, who stares back expectantly, waiting for me to figure out our next move. The poor kid still suffers whenever Melanie has to leave him, even if it's for a little privacy. At least now it'll not be long before we're all together again and possibly with another member of his family too. At least then he'll always have someone with him. Even though I already think of him as the little brother that I never had.
"Is this it?" He whispers, jerking his head towards the flea-bitten block of apartments. The front entrance is sealed shut by several wooden posts and there's a 'Restricted Access' sign clinging precariously above the door. My heart hammers thunderously knowing that Melanie is nearly within my reach and I imagine the soft touch of her lips against mine.
"Yeah this is the one." I murmur. Jamie's eyes light up even further and I can see that it takes all of his will power to control the urge to sprint across the street and into his sisters waiting arms.
"Can we go?" I hold a finger up to him, a universal sign asking for silence as I scrutinise the surrounding area once again. Jamie starts bouncing up and down in excitement and I can't conceal the grin that spreads across my face as I double-check that the coast is clear.
"Stay here." I breathe before stealthily making my way across the dingy street, my right hand hovering above the sheath that holds my trusty hunting knife. My footsteps are inaudible and I don't realise that I'm holding my breath until my back is against the cool brick wall of the building. I scan my street for danger, silently gesturing for Jamie to follow my lead.
The kid briskly walks across the street, head down, hands in pockets, slowing his pace down a bit so that he doesn't look suspicious. I've taught him well. When he reaches my side I give him a reassuring pat on the shoulder and his shoulders relax. He peers through his messy mop of black hair at me and grins. I grin in return and then tell him to start looking for a way in.
Minutes later, I find an old rusty metal door that leads down towards what looks like a utility room. It's a better option than using the front entrance, plus there's no locks which means we won't get trapped inside if it shuts. I call Jamie over and together we ease the door open slowly to avoid making any noise.
"Follow me closely." I whisper and Jamie bobs his head into a nod as we wander down one of the empty hallways.
The doors are closed all the way down on either side, with the occasional turn off onto a side hallway. An open elevator shafts is at the far end of the corridor with stairs being at the end nearest to us. A sign at the opposite side of the hallway indicates that we're below the first floor and next to that the stair entrance.
We jog up the first couple of steps together, still wary for danger but eager to reach the top, a strange sense of déjà vu overwhelming me as we advance past the 2nd floor of the dissolving staircase. There's an unnerving pang in my gut that I felt quite often in my recent nightmares of this moment but I don't allow it to deter me. Instead I increase my pace, skipping out one or two steps with every bound I make. Both my body and mind focused solely on reaching the fifth floor.
About couple of flights below, Jamie is starting to tire out and struggles to keep up. His laboured breath echoes off of the surrounding walls, a steady constant pattern that indicates he's in no immediate danger as of yet.
I push myself up faster, to the point where my legs are screaming in protest and with one last leap, my feet land on the landing of the fifth floor with a thud. Impatient and anxious to get to Melanie, I throw open the heavy wooden door with a sigh of relief. My eyes flicker back and forth, watching out for any signs of a trap.
I walk briskly down the stranded hallway, noting that it's just like the rest of this empty building, not even bothering to wait for Jamie to catch up. The kid isn't too far behind me and now that the fifth room is within my sight, I have no plans in waiting any longer. It takes of my will power to do this cautiously and not tear the door off its hinges.
But as I draw l closer to the room and the woman I love, the pang makes it return and a small part of me begins to doubt that we're even in the right building. I would usually trust my gut instincts no questions asked but Melanie has proved me before; back when we met when we thought the other was a parasite trying to erase our minds. But that doesn't stop the terror that starts to take over my mind as the door stands just inches away from me. Room 531.
I grasp hold of the handle tightly with my right hand, my left clutching the straps of my backpack reflexively. Although I miss Mel like crazy, I'm still afraid of what might be concealed within. I can't even begin to imagine what I would do if she wasn't there, and quite frankly I don't want to.
I inhale deeply and push. Nothing. I pull. Nothing still. I rattle the door impatiently but there's still no sign of the damn thing budging. With a frustrated sigh, I pace back a few steps and swing my right leg out from behind, forcing the door to bust in on itself. A cloud of dust covers the entrance and when it settles I clamber through only to have my worst fears confirmed.
I enter the room state of numbness, my eyes frantically darting around in search for a sign. For anything that might indicate Mel's existence here. But I find nothing. Melanie isn't here. Just an old, abandoned apartment.
My heart beats wildly. There are several plausible explanations as to why Melanie isn't here. She might have found Sharon and is still trying to convince her to leave with us. She could be hiding out in the woods about to return to the cabin. We could have just missed her as we left. I cling on hopelessly to these hopeful possibilities when I see it.
Tucked underneath the broken fragments of the door, lays a tattered piece of paper. On it is Mel's scribbly handwriting. 'Not fast enough. Love you love Jamie. Don't go home.' My eyes scan over the paper again and angry tears fill my eyes as the news sinks in.
Those bloody, filthy, life-stealing, body-thieves must have seen her, cornered her and caught her somewhere in this building. But not before she wrote this note. Her warning to us. Her last goodbye.
I screw the piece of paper up in my fist and kick at the remnants of the door in frustration, allowing my anger and grief to flow freely through me. I should have gone with her! I should have made her stay with Jamie while I went in search of Sharon! It should have been me!
I fall to my knees with a sob, the paper lying limply in my hand.
"It should have been me. It should have been me." I murmur, tears leaking down my face. In just a matter of seconds my entire has shattered into a million irreparable pieces and I'm too lost in my sorrow to acknowledge that Jamie's footsteps have halted at the door.
And there we have it! Yet another 'The Host' one-shot deep from the recesses of my mind!
I'm still learning thought, so any thoughts and opinions are greatly appreciated, even if it's just a comment about a mistake. I haven't really proof-read this thing yet.